"A SUCCESSFUL LIFE IS A PARTNERSHIP"
Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot
Scripture Readings: Hebrews 3:7-14; Psalm 95:6-7, 8-9, 10-11; Mark 1:40-45
My dear encountered couples:
When we begin new projects or get into a new way of life we are often full of confidence. Nothing is going to stop us from carrying it through to a successfully completion. But as time passes we find ourselves losing some of that confidence. Obstacles and difficulties we didn’t expect start entering the picture, we begin worrying about things we hadn’t thought of before. Doubts about our ability to continue begin discouraging us. The more we worry, the more we doubt, the more we get discouraged. What happened to all that confidence we started out with?
Many people quit whatever it is they started and get into something else. We are a race of great beginners, poor finishers. Why is that? Because we are made in such a way that there are many things we just cannot handle on our own.
That is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life, its growth and perfection. We need help! No matter how hard we try we can’t make our own holiness happen. There is no spiritual practice, no daily routine that is going to make saints out of us. We must work at our holiness but it takes God to make it happen. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that our spiritual development can only be accomplished by beginning and remaining in partnership with Christ.
“We have become partners of Christ,” the Book of Hebrews tells us, “if only we maintain to the end that confidence with which we began.”
Our confidence can be maintained only when we place it in the right person and keep it there. Never start anything or do anything without Christ. Only he can bring about your spiritual success.
"NEVER TOO BUSY TO PRAY"
Wednesday in the First Week of Ordinary Time
Scriptural Readings: Hebrews 2:14-18; Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9; Mark 1:29-39
My dear encountered couples:
Jesus was very busy. When word got out that he could cure people of illnesses and demons, people flocked to him from every-where. Like a hospital emergency room after an earthquake, wherever Jesus went the house was soon running over with people looking for a cure. At the home of Peter’s mother-in-law whom Jesus had just cured from a fever, we’re told that “as evening drew on, people brought him all who were ill and those possessed by demons. Before long the whole town was gathered outside the door.”
When everybody finally left I imagine he headed straight to bed. Do you suppose he first said his night prayers? Maybe, maybe not. Our passage doesn’t say. But we are told that “rising early the next morning, he went off to a lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer.” His apostles looked for him. “And when they found him, they told him, ‘Everybody is looking for you!” Another busy day.
Is your life busy like that? Mine too. Slows down sometimes but never seems to stop for long. Nearly every day is a busy day. But! We, like Jesus, must find time to pray. And a time when we are awake enough to know what we are doing. Jesus might have gone immediately to bed that night after all that curing, he might have been much too tired to say his night prayers. But he made sure to get up before everyone else and get in some morning prayers. That’s a lesson for us. We are to find some time when others are busy elsewhere. We are to find time to pray. If we don’t, our spiritual energy will run down and conk out like our physical energy. And the quality of our performance will become anemic. We sure don’t want that. So - pray! Sometime every day!
"AN EXCELLENT QUESTION"
Monday in the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Revelations 1:1-4; 2:1-5; Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4+6; Luke 18:35-43
My dear encountered couples:
“What is that?” The question that led the blind man to regaining his sight. “What is that?” asked the blind beggar as he heard a crowd passing by. “It is Jesus of Nazareth,” came the answer to his question. Then he started shouting after Jesus trying to gain his attention. We know that Jesus heard him and soon answered the man’s request to restore his sight.
If that blind man hadn’t asked “What is that?” when he heard the crowd, he would have remained blind. Many people, in my estimation, remain blind about many things. Many people remain in ignorance about many very important things in their lives because they aren’t interested enough to ask “What is that?” They just don’t seem to care. Far too many people show little interest in learning. More and more young people are dropping out of school before they graduate, very few adults buy books and read them. Many people have never stepped foot inside a library.
With a mind comes a serious obligation, an obligation that if not fulfilled just might be a very serious sin against human nature. Not to use our minds is to show ingratitude to God who gave them to us. By the very fact that we have a brain we are obliged to use it, and often. We are to put into it as much information as we can accumulate. We are to think upon that information, analyze it, and draw conclusions as to how it can benefit us and others.
The man asked, “What is that?” And his sight was restored. Oh that more people would ask that question! And then be interested enough in listen to the answer and do something with it. Jesus came to teach us. Why? Because his Father doesn’t want his children to be ignorant.
"THE END OF THE WORLD"
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)
Scriptural Readings: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16:5+8, 9-10, 11; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
My dear encountered couples:
Every once in a while someone predicts the end of the world. In September of 1988 some people in a little North Carolina town prepared for the second coming of Christ. Even the national news picked it up. Jesus was supposed to arrive somewhere within a day or two of Monday, September 12th. He didn’t show. Last year, a Protestant minister, Harold Camping, was predicting that the end of the world would come on May 21st. He predicted that there would be an earthquake “so powerful that it would throw open all the graves.” Of course we all know that his prediction was wrong. The day came and went without even a tremor.
Lately, an ancient prophecy has caught the attention of many, the end of the Mayan Calendar. Some predict that this calendar would end this December 21, 2012. They say that it will bring the end of the world by catastrophic astronomical events such as: “killer solar flare” and “planets flying by.” Although many experts dispute this, Hollywood and others have raised the suspense as the year 2012 came. In fact, they made a lot of movies about this and made a killing at the box office.
When will they ever learn? All anyone has to do is look in the gospel this Sunday for what Jesus tells us, “As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father.”
But what would you do if you really knew when the end of the world is coming? Would you do what some of those people in that North Carolina town were reported doing? It is said they sold all their possessions, their houses, cars, everything. I can understand people getting rid of their questionable magazines, but not their television sets. The networks would surely have covered the event for everyone to see in case Jesus came to some other part of the world and missed North Carolina. I still wonder what those people did with the money they got for everything they sold. Maybe they gave it all away. Don’t you wish they had had your address?
But I shouldn’t really make fun of them. Those who believed in the second coming of Christ were probably demonstrating their faith by the way they responded. They were stripping themselves of the cares of the world and letting themselves be free to leave with Christ wherever he would like to take them. And they can find themselves in good company. Even St. Paul in his day believed that Jesus would soon come. He told the people to live as if they didn’t own anything, to be completely unattached to things of the world and be ready to leave without a moment’s notice. He knew, though, it was impossible for him or anyone to know exactly the day or the hour. But he advised the early Christians to always have their bags packed - their spiritual ones, nothing earthly could be taken along.
What should we do to be ready for that day? The answer is simple. Always live as Christ has told us to live: as children of God and citizens of heaven; as visitors to earth who are here only to learn and grow until we become ready for something much better. As teammates who do their parts to help one another win the game of life and an eternal, divine trophy. We are to live the faith we profess and not merely mouth it.
The end of the world will come for you and for me when we die, if not before. And we don’t really have any idea of the hour nor the day when that will happen. But Jesus says it will happen. And it would be foolish of us not to believe it. History and experience teaches us that we all pass away sooner or later. Jesus taught that we pass away to another life. And God gives us the freedom to choose between two kinds – heavenly or hellish.
The point that Jesus was trying to put across is the same point expounded to the early Christians by St. Paul: Always be ready to move on. We were created for happiness with God and each other in heaven – not here. So don’t get so engrossed with life in this world that you find yourself unable to tear yourself away. All this is passing. All will either go out of existence or be changed. Don’t grasp onto anything that will someday not be here for you to grasp. Hold onto your faith, become stronger in it, and someday, maybe soon, you’ll see and have what your faith promises.
This is how Jesus puts it: "The sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed its light, stars will fall out of the skies, and the heavenly hosts will be shaken. Then, men will see the son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will dispatch his messengers and assemble his chosen from the four winds, from the farthest bounds of earth and sky...The heavens and earth will pass away, but my words will not."
We will be ready, won’t we? I hope so. Try your hardest to keep your faith, your hope, your love, your every thought and action grounded in Christ. Then when this earth no longer remains as your home, Jesus will take you to his Father and yours to live forever with all those you love and who love you. Look forward to the second coming of Christ - and be ready for it - at any moment of any day.
"SOLID FAITH INSURANCE"
Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Scriptural Readings: John 4-9; Psalm 119:1, 2, 10, 11, 17, 18; Luke 17:26-37
My dear encountered couples:
Our gospel is like yesterday, a wake-up call about the coming of the Messiah. Only this time it is not about his first coming, but his second - the coming of the Son of Man in all his power and glory. Will we be ready for him?
We all try to be ready not only for the inevitable but for the possibles in life, especially the expensive possibles. We buy insurance to help us financially with a whole host of costly possibles. But how good is our insurance? For instance, does our medical insurance cover life in a nursing home?
There was a happily retired couple that had attained the American dream. A fully paid for house, two cars, plenty of money in the bank and investments to make them comfortable for the rest of their days. The husband had a stroke. He lived but needed round the clock care in a nursing home. $100 a day, $3000 a month, $36,000 a year. Their insurance didn’t cover nursing homes. The investments are sold, savings depleted, the house mortgaged and lost, the American dream gone. They thought they were solidly insured. Are we solidly insured for the Second Coming of Christ?
John in his letter tells us the best insurance is solid faith, always living according to the teachings of Christ. "Anyone who does not remain rooted in the teachings of Christ does not possess God, while anyone who remains rooted possesses both the Father and the Son." Let us not risk losing the Christian dream. Let us not only pray for, but practice, solid faith.
"HOW TO TWIST ONE'S ARM"
Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Philemon 7-20; Psalm 146:7, 8-9a, 9bc-10; Luke 17:20-25
My dear encountered couples:
Paul knew how to put the screws to people. It seems that Paul converted Onesimus, a runaway slave, who had also stolen from his master, Philemon. Since Paul was a close friend to Philemon, he wrote him a letter asking him to not only forgive Onesimus, but to treat him as a friend and brother in Christ. Paul asks this as a personal favor, writing it this way in his letter:
"If you regard me as a partner, welcome Onesimus as you would me. If he has done you an injury or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I agree to pay - not to mention that you owe me your very self!" I feel sure Philemon complied with Paul’s request. What do you think?
If Jesus wrote each of us a letter, he could very easily put the screws to us. He could twist our arms by mentioning a few of the many things he has done for us. And those of us with a conscience couldn’t possibly turn down anything he might ask us to do. If there is someone we refuse to forgive or make up with, Jesus could remind us of a few times he forgave our atrocious conduct. If there is someone without enough to eat, without a place to live, without warm clothes for the winter, Jesus could remind us of our abundance, and who arranged for us to have it.
Yes, Jesus could put the screws to our consciences very easily, and get us to do things for those who need our help. Instead of a letter, though, he lets us think of these things for ourselves. I’m afraid that sometime we choose to forget and ignore what God has done for us. That way we don’t feel obliged to do anything for others and our consciences don’t bother us. What do you think?